By Isabelle Flener
Mississippi Earthtones Festival is a local festival full of art, music, and conservation. It brings radiant happiness and fun times. The event was developed by the State of Illinois, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, and the Illinois River Coordinating Council in 2005. This year rang in the 16th year for the festival. The festival was first created to joyfully celebrate “It’s Our River Day”, which is the 3rd Saturday in September.
Mississippi Earthtones Festival was filled with eco-friendly vendors, art exhibits, music, and of course food and beverages. The event was free and family friendly.
Local vendors were able to come out and share their unique creations for all to see and purchase. Sue McPike Utgaard had a table of her very own, named ‘Hobbit House.’
“I have loved to be outdoors, explore and forage since I was extremely young. When I was a little girl, my family had a cabin on the Illinois River. It was a cabin on stilts, in the middle of nowhere. There was no air conditioning or hot water, just us and nature.” Sue McPike Utgaard said. “I used to scavenge through the riverbank and carefully collect treasures. I would bring home sticks, stones, feathers, leaves, etc. I would go back and put together numerous creations with them and that is how I instantly fell in love with creating.”
The treasures consisted of Fairy Gardens, Neck Adornments (necklaces), Wall Surprises and more, said Utgaard.
“The Wall Surprises are made of up-cycled cigar and card boxes. With everything I invent I think of a story in my head of what is going on. The story helps tremendously inspires every little piece of it,” Utgaard shared.
“This is undoubtedly my favorite festival of the year because it eagerly embraces our planet, community and brings lovely eclectic of people together. I absolutely love Jake’s Leg performing tonight,” Utgaard said.
One of Sue’s children, Chloe Bayer, eagerly joined the festivities running her own table in correlation to ‘Hobbit House,’ called ‘Kids Center.’ Kids of all ages could come and make a Wall Surprise of their own and take it home to cherish forever.
“My mom being a vendor and my niece making creations really made me want to come out and enthusiastically support them today, along with enjoy the festivities. This festival really shows the beauty of the earth, and vendors can show their art through up cycled or recycled pieces,” Chloe Bayer said.
Sue’s granddaughter, Aiva Moore, had her own creations featured in the ‘Hobbit House’ booth.
“I call my creations art,” Aiva Moore said. “I love adding the details and making the creation pop!”
Overall, the local festival showed off the sacred earth and its lovely inhabitants. From the ‘Zen Zone’ to the food trucks, to the musical stage, to the exquisite art shown off all around, there was a place for everyone to enjoy the event.
“If you would like to learn how to create your own art, first start by enjoying the outdoors. Slow down, look around and bring a baggy to collect things,” Utgaard said.
If you would like to further get involved or learn more about the Mississippi Earthtones Festival, visit DowntownAlton.com or facebook.com/EarthtonesFestival.